Family Recipes Are on the Menu: Chefs Serving Dishes Steeped in Tradition

Thanksgiving is all about celebrating family and food. But at some restaurants, every day feels like Thanksgiving as chefs get to honor their own heritage by bringing flavors from home to your plate. Here are nine restaurants where family recipes are on the menu.

Kingside, New York, New York
Small plates may be one of the main features at Kingside, but chef Fernando Navas’s bone-in rib eye for two certainly strays the other way with king-sized portions of 28-day dry-aged beef. “Growing up in Argentina, beef was the center of family gatherings,” he says. “I have the best memories of Sunday asados when we were all together eating. At Kingside, I wanted to bring this experience of sharing with friends and family through an excellent cut of beef and all the right pairings: potatoes, flavorful sauces, and a killer bottle of wine.” Make a reservation at Kingside.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Sulmona, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Sunday meat sauce at chef/owner Delio Susi’s Sulmona is on the menu courtesy of the years Susi spent helping his mother and aunts make gravy. They used only Italian imported whole peeled tomatoes, not crushed, which helps to control the texture, consistency, and taste, and by doing the same, Susi is able to make it as authentic as the one created back in the family kitchen (with roots going back to Sulmona). The antipasti version of Sunday meat sauce is served with pecorino cheese and braised meats, and the pizza menu addition is served with Applewood smoked bacon and ricotta. Make a reservation at Sulmona.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Rye, Leawood, Kansas
Chef-owners Megan and Colby Garrelts have all courses covered at Rye, where Midwestern flavors take center stage. Colby’s family passed down their fried chicken recipe through several generations, and while it may not be as much under lock and key as KFC’s, the flavors are just as treasured by those who flock here for crispy, crunchy, decadent free-range bird with homemade pickles and ham gravy. The Garrelts both use fresh, locally sourced ingredients and products and produce from their family farm, and pastry chef Megan’s pies — like the signature MoKan, with Kansas walnuts, Missouri pecans, and chocolate — offer up a sweet ending. “Dessert is nostalgia,” read their menus. “It’s a childhood romp through the candy store, the soda fountain, the ice cream parlor … when it comes to sweets, all of us are just oversized kids.” Make a reservation at Rye.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Headwaters, Portland, Oregon
Born in Kiev and raised stove-side by his grandmother Rosa in Belarus, Vitaly Paley would watch her grow her sow vegetables in her garden and prepare them, rapt as she grated potatoes by hand, adding onion and egg and frying them in duck or goose fat on top of the fireplace until his favorite little latkes were golden brown. Today, he makes those same latkes as part of the wildly popular Russian Tea at Headwaters, as well as at Imperial, and pelmeni dumplings feature at Paley’s Place, Portland’s first farm to table restaurant at which Paley won his James Beard Award. Make a reservation at Headwaters.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Fang, San Francisco, California
It’s a true family affair at Fang, where chef Peter Fang brings recipes from his native Shanghai to Bay Area plates. He and wife Lily opened their first restaurant in 1988, and he quickly earned the nickname “One Wok Man,” for there was little that would fit into his tiny kitchen. Today, his restaurant has grown and includes his daughter Kathy, who trained formally at Le Cordon Bleu and is inspired by her family’s Cantonese heritage and cooking style. Fine-dining and dim sum evolve frequently with fresh ingredients from Chinatown markets, and there are always a few off-the-menu items for the adventurous. Make a reservation at Fang.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Il Casale, Lexington, Massachusetts
Chef Dante de Magistris uses the centuries-old recipes of his nonna at Il Casale, which has kept patrons coming back to his two locations for handmade gnocchi and mouthwatering meatballs using a pork and beef blend simmered lightly in tomato sauce (no pan-frying). The dish that takes him back to a childhood spent cooking in the kitchen with his grandmother who hails from Candida, Italy, however, is the minestra. A rustic “soul food” soup from the mountains of Irpinia, the minestra is made in batches of one or two a day for only six to twelve servings. It takes several hours to make and tastes best on the day it’s made, so regulars know to call in advance to secure a bowl. Make a reservation at Il Casale.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Bub City, Chicago, Illinois
Growing up in Buffalo, New York, chef and Bub City partner Christian Eckmann spent a good deal of time in his grandfather and great uncle’s butcher shop and grocery store, Kurzanski’s, which was started by his great-grandfather in the 1920s. Eckmann learned the craft and helped make Easter Polish sausages, which his grandfather would joyfully distribute to customers and neighborhood friends during the holiday. Today, Eckmann carries the torch in the Windy City, making Texas hot links, Basque-style Txistorra, and breakfast sausages for Bub City’s hangover brunch. Make a reservation at Bub City.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Vandal, New York, New York
Mom’s comfort food finds a place alongside works of world-renowned street artists and globally inspired fare from destinations including Chile, Vietnam, and Barcelona at Manhattan hotspot Vandal. Chef Jonathan Kavourakis dishes: “Growing up, my Jewish mother loved to cook meatballs and sauce from scratch. It was such a killer sauce that I always wanted to put it somewhere on the menu. When we were developing the chicken parmesan recipe at Vandal, I thought what better place to put her tasty sauce than atop a breaded chicken cutlet with some melted mozzarella cheese!” Make a reservation at Vandal.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

Makoto, Bal Harbour, Florida
It may be widely considered street food, but James Beard-recognized chef Makoto Okuwa puts his own spin on ramen thanks to his grandmother, who was a teacher at a cooking school and taught him how to make the savory soup. The Makoto Ramen features ground steak, pork, garlic, bean sprouts, and red chili, and it is now one of the top dishes on his menu. Make a reservation at Makoto.

Family Recipes Are on the Menu

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Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at carleythornell@gmail.com.

Photo credits: Eric Luciano (Sulmona); Bonjwing Lee (Rye); Christina Slaten (Bub City).